The Big Smoke… In Thailand

” You will hate Bangkok!”
“I hated it, too big, hot and smelly”

The list and warnings went on and on and it does smell. Thankfully though my preconceived notion of Bangkok was proved wrong. I didn’t love it and two days was enough but I enjoyed seeing it. The insanely busy streets – happy that I wasn’t driving through them, walking the sky walkway, the Palace and taking my two favourite modes of transport. Train and boat. I think if there hadn’t been a river through the city I wouldn’t have enjoyed it a quarter as much.

I arrived at 5am on a night bus exhausted as I had kept sliding off my seat and slightly disorientated. My first impression of Bangkok was that it was hot, smelly, the taxi and tuk tuk drivers actually smiled and it would be manageable but I would rather be back in Chiang Mai. My hostel, Lamphu hotel, was off Kho San road only a 10 min walk away once I knew where I was going.

On my first day, I jumped onto a river boat and went to see Wat Arun or the Temple of the Dawn. It lies on the west side of the Mae Nam Chao Phraya and sparkles in the light, each pillar, demon warrior, or monkey covered in colourful tiled mosaic. There are also quite a lot of stairs which were made for long legged, small footed people. I just fall out of that category. Next I headed to the shopping or newer part of town. River ferries are easily the best way to get from A to B so I took one to the central pier which hooked up with the Bangkok Sky Train and soaked up the massive City buildings and sky scrapers as they whiz zed by.

I went to two different shopping centres, looking for the cinema which I had read about. The second time I found it. I strangely enjoyed walking into the shopping centre. I had forgotten what it was like and the air conditioning felt blissful compared to the hot stagnant air in the city – which is easy to avoid if you travel by boat. The Siam Paragon is a massive mall. 6 floors, with a food court which resembles a street market with every type of food available. I tried a traditional savoury coconut crepe. They are only as big as your hand and are pretty tasty. I loved the movie experience and it felt like such a treat! Reclining seats, cold cinema – I would bring a sweater if you go, and a good action film with a bit of romance thrown in, can’t go wrong. You stand for the national anthem before the show and after the trailers.

On my second day, I headed to the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Keaw the home of the Emerald Buddha – actually made of solid jade. It is stunning. Again the mosaic walls, pillars, Buddhas, the detail put in and the statues. There are a lot of solid stone statues of either dogs or Thai Warriors guarding doorways and completely fell In love with them. The dogs are so ugly they are cute and don’t look the least bit scary. The grand palace is huge, modern and fairy tale like surrounded by trees that to me resemble something out of Tim Burtons “Alice in Wonderland” and I couldn’t help but imagine the Queen of Hearts striding across the yard.

From there I was off to see the Reclining Buddha in Wat Pho. The oldest Wat in Bangkok dating back to the 16th century. The reclining Buddha is ginormous! At 46m long and 15m high it is hard not to be impressed. And I have learned that it represents Buddha passing into the final nirvana.

I also did a lot of walking in Bangkok, the old city is not very large and it is not too hard to get around. Finding myself almost walking into a barricade for the protests at one point, but also charming parks and a fun fair next to the giant swing.

It’s a busy, slightly chaotic city but it has it’s charm and while I almost skipped it I am glad that I stopped by and got to see a few of the sites and take in Kho San road, although as a tip – the parallel street to it, I found to be a lot sweeter, not as loud but vibrant, twinkle lights and lanterns and busy street vendors without the pumping music. Also if you like to shop Bangkok is definitely the place to go.

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